Guardian Council May Approve Citizenship Rights Charter, Says Lawyer
“The draft Charter is, in fact, the same as Chapter Three of the Iranian Constitution, which addresses the rights of the Iranian citizens, with some added interpretations. In addition, it includes some extra articles that are somehow related to human rights. As it is a collection of related laws about citizenship rights, I believe it represents a positive step,” said Bahman Keshavarz.
“At this time, there are limited or no guarantees for certain articles in the Constitution or the Islamic Penal Code, due to ambiguities and problems in their interpretation. I believe that since the introduction and conclusion sections of this Charter include promises for development of bills based on articles in the Charter, and new laws will be passed later, there is hope that shortcomings of the existing laws will be eliminated in the Charter and their enforcement will be guaranteed. When this happens, sections of the Constitution and the Islamic Penal Code that are related to the protection of citizenship rights can also find their presently missing enforcement guarantees,” Keshavarz added.
“This bill is an opportunity to clarify some of the ambiguities and issues in the constitution and to draft more applicable and precise bills for approval,” said Keshavarz.
Asked about the Charter’s silence on religious minorities, Mr. Keshavarz said, “As I said before, the Charter currently holds generalities. The Charter does not address more than what is said about ethnic and religious minorities in the Constitution. This is why I hope there are opportunities in the next steps to comprehensively address the abstract or ambiguous points of the Constitution or our other laws and to eliminate the shortcomings. I must also say that we have to be cautious about the red lines and obstacles. In interpreting, writing, and developing the legal concepts; we can only go so far because of those red lines,” said Bahman Keshavarz.
Asked to elaborate on the red lines he had referenced, the Head of the National Iranian Bar Associations Union said, “I prefer not to answer that question.”
On May 10, 2004, the Iranian Parliament passed Mohammad Khatami’s proposed “Plan to Respect Legitimate Freedoms and Protect Citizenship Rights” after some modifications and the Guardian Council subsequently approved it, but the law was never enforced. Some speculate that even if the Parliament passes the present bill, the Guardian Council may not approve the Charter. But Mr. Keshavarz is optimistic about the Charter’s outcome. “There were other initiatives in Mr. Khatami’s administration that could have turned into good laws, but they didn’t. I have more hope that this administration can enforce the Charter. Obviously, when we talk about bills and passing laws, we inevitably face the Guardian Council’s opinions. At the same time, if the bills are passed [by the Parliament] and the Guardian Council disapproves of them, we can then hope for the Expediency Council’s intervention,” he said, adding, “We will definitely face problems in seeing the articles in the Charter clarified and approved, but my guess is that the possibility of approval and acceptance of the Charter is much greater than it was in the Khatami administration. I am generally hopeful.”